I received an audiobook advanced copy from the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.
Genre: Gothic Horror Age Range: Adult Star Rating: 4 stars Series: standalone
Once upon a time, a man who believed in fairy tales married a beautiful, mysterious woman named Indigo Maxwell-Casteñada. He was a scholar of myths. She was heiress to a fortune. They exchanged gifts and stories and believed they would live happily ever after—and in exchange for her love, Indigo extracted a promise: that her bridegroom would never pry into her past.
But when Indigo learns that her estranged aunt is dying and the couple is forced to return to her childhood home, the House of Dreams, the bridegroom will soon find himself unable to resist. For within the crumbling manor’s extravagant rooms and musty halls, there lurks the shadow of another girl: Azure, Indigo’s dearest childhood friend who suddenly disappeared. As the house slowly reveals his wife’s secrets, the bridegroom will be forced to choose between reality and fantasy, even if doing so threatens to destroy their marriage . . . or their lives.
Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
THE LAST TALE OF THE FLOWER BRIDE is a really creepy gothic horror that’s gorgeously written and hard to put down.
This is a book that I struggled to classify the entire way through. It was clearly a gothic tale, but was it a gothic fantasy? A gothic horror? I wouldn’t call it a historical gothic because I think (based on a refence to a fax machine and another to blocky phones) it’s probably set in the 90s (which might make the other time line 80s?), and maybe that is considered historical these days, but not to me!
I ultimately went with horror because it felt like the visions and house and the odd instances fit more into horror than fantasy as the entire book has this sense of menace and dread, partly conjured by these elements. It’s full of secrets that you both want to know but also really don’t because it can’t be good.
Fairy tales and folklore from around the world fill the book, from the tales the characters tell each other to the metaphors used in narration to explain what’s going on. It’s how the bridegroom and Indigo court, how they frame their relationship. The use of so many of them, to the point you’re almost tripping over one each page you turn, helps build the sense of unease and mounting dread, because very few of these tales end well. So if this is almost like a modern folklore tale, then it follows that it can’t well either.
The book is told across two timelines. There is the “present” (90s?) where the unnamed bridegroom marries Indigo and promises never to look into her past, but eventually the weight and lure of secrets starts to pull on him. Then there is Indigo’s childhood, narrated by her best friend, Azure, who has disappeared from Indigo’s life in the “present.”
Indigo did not come across well in Azure’s chapters, but I think it was intentional and it made me try to puzzle out what was real and what was not. You see the allure and charm of her, but it’s a dangerous one. It’s never clear how much she truly believes in faeries and the other world and stories, or whether it truly is a ply to control others. She certainly uses it to control Azure, to draw her in and isolate her, make her Indigo’s and no one else’s.
This is another book where I was able to switch between physical and audiobook. I was very glad of an audiobook as it meant I didn’t have to put it down when I went to make dinner or go out to buy food – I could just switch format and stay with the story.
The audiobook has two narrators (Steve West for the bridegroom and Sura Siu for Azure.) Of course, it makes so much sense to have different narrators for different POV characters, and helps distinguish them, but it also really helped to keep the past and present feeling separate. They both also did so well to conjure up the sense of not-quite-in-this-world feel of the story.
Read my reviews of other books by Roshani Chokshi:
The Gilded Wolves:
- THE GILDED WOLVES (#1)